From Part 5:
Harm protested all the way to the ambulance. The paramedics confirmed that the bullet had gone completely through his leg. They were concerned about possible muscle damage and insisted that he go with them to the hospital. When Harm balked at the idea, Mac confronted him.
"Listen, Harm, even if *you* don't think that you need medical attention, Nick *does*. And the longer you argue, the longer it's going to take for him to get the help that might save his life."
"You'll call his daughter?" Harm asked. "And - Annie?"
It wasn't something Mac was looking forward to, but she nodded. "Just as soon as you're in emergency," she promised. "Now go."
She watched the ambulance pull away and sagged against the chain link fence.
"Excuse me, ma'am?"
Mac looked up to see a man wearing a uniform that identified him as a Sheriff's deputy for the county. "Yes?"
"I'll need a statement, since both of those men were shot."
"Tell you what, deputy. If you'll give my friend and me a ride to the hospital where they took those two, I'll tell you everything you want to know."
"My car's over here," the deputy told her, his eyes narrowing as he looked at Josh. "What's your name, son?"
"Josh Pendry," Josh replied, giving Mac a look that clearly said, *Here we go.*
"From Elk Grove?" the deputy asked.
"Come on, deputy," Mac said, reaching for the door handle. The last thing she needed was this hotshot deputy giving her grief about a missing child. She had to get to the hospital and make sure Harm was all right. "I promised to tell you everything, didn't I?"
Josh got into the back of the cruiser behind Mac as the deputy got into the driver's seat and started the engine. "Okay, ma'am. Might as well start with your name. And why you're with a teenager who was reported as missing by his mother two days ago."
"I'm Lt. Colonel Sarah Mackenzie, deputy. United States Marine Corps. The man with the leg wound is Commander Harmon Rabb, Jr. of the United States Navy. Josh Pendry is his godson. He came out here from Washington at Mrs. Pendry's request to try and find her son "
18 August 2003
2100 local time
Lodi Community Hospital Emergency Room
Mac took a sip of the coffee from the cup she was holding and grimaced in distaste as she realized that it was cold. Tossing it into a waste receptacle, she continued pacing the linoleum floor of the waiting room, glancing at the doors to the emergency treatment area as she passed them.
"How long has it been?" Josh asked as he sat in a chair, watching those same doors.
"Forty-five minutes," Mac answered automatically.
Josh frowned as he looked at her. "How do you do that?" he asked, reminding her so much of Harm that Mac had to close her eyes for a moment to fight back the tears.
"Internal chronometer," she explained, and, seeing his confusion, added, "Clock. Internal clock."
Josh nodded. "You think they're okay?" he wondered.
"If they weren't, someone would have come out to let us know," she assured the teenager. Sitting down beside him, she asked, "How are you holding up?"
His expression was dark as he said, "Ask me after my mom gets here."
Once he'd heard Mac's explanation, the deputy had volunteered to call Josh's mother and locate Master Chief Harrison's daughter. Mac had agreed instantly. She really didn't want to deal with Annie's hysterics right now.
Mac placed her hand on his back, rubbing it gently. "I'm sorry," Josh said.
"Everything. All this is my fault. If I hadn't run away, then you and Harm wouldn't be here and the Chief and Harm wouldn't be hurt."
"I don't know about that. I think those young men were going to graduate to this eventually. Maybe not this afternoon. But if Harm and I hadn't been there, they might have seriously injured Nick today.
Josh turned his head to give her a small grin. "I couldn't believe it when you tossed that guy to the floor. I'd never seen a- anyone do something like that."
"You mean you'd never seen a woman do something like that, don't you?" Mac asked, smiling too.
Josh's smile turned sheepish. "Well, yeah," he admitted. Another grin. "It was cool."
"I'm a Marine," Mac reminded him.
"Still, if Harm hadn't come to find me, he wouldn't have gotten shot."
"Trouble has a way of finding Harm, Josh," Mac said gently. "I don't think he'll blame you. Besides, it wasn't that serious. I'm sure he'll be out here in a minute, and he'll tell you himself that he doesn't blame you."
"But I blame myself. If I'd just been honest with Mom, told her that I was going to do this and not spent the summer sneaking around the way I did. If I hadn't run away "
"It's always better to stay and face your problems, Josh," Mac said, looking up as she heard footsteps in the hallway outside. "That's something that it took me a long time to learn." She rose to her feet as Annie entered the waiting area, followed closely by James Morgan.
"Josh!" Annie cried, running to grab her son and pull him to her. "Thank God!"
Josh returned his mother's embrace, Mac noticed, burying his face against her shoulder. "Hi, Mom," he said. Mac could hear the tears he didn't think he should cry in his voice.
"When they told me that you were here at the hospital, I was afraid that you'd been hurt-" Annie pulled away from him to study his face. "You *are* okay, aren't you?"
"Yeah," Josh said. "I'm fine."
Once she was sure that her son was unharmed, Annie shook her head. "What on earth were you thinking? Running away like that?" she demanded to know.
"Annie," James said gently, placing a hand on her arm in an effort to calm her.
It apparently worked, because Annie's eyes met James' clear green gaze before she took a deep breath. "What happened? Why are you here?" she asked Mac.
"Well," Mac started to say, but Josh interrupted.
"I think I should be the one to tell her, Mac," he said. "Harm said I should take responsibility for my actions. I guess now's as good of a time to start as any."
"Josh?" Annie said in a shaky voice.
"I've been taking flying lessons all summer, Mom," he said quickly, as though speed might reduce the pain of the words- or the angry outburst he was certain would follow.
"Oh my," Annie said, sinking down into the nearest chair. "Flying? Josh, you know how I feel about-"
"And you know how *I* feel about it," Josh countered. "I'm not Dad, Mom. I'm me. And I should be able to do what *I* want to do with my life. I'm sorry if it upsets you, but-"
"Where did you take these lessons?" Annie wanted to know. "Who gave them to you? You're underage. Whoever it was-" her voice trailed off as James' hand fell on her arm again.
Josh sighed, shaking his head. "I told Harm this would happen," he said to Mac.
"Speaking of Harm," Annie asked, looking around, "Where is he?"
As she asked, Harm, leaning heavily on the cane in his left hand, came through the emergency room doors. The doctor immediately followed him. Both Mac and Josh moved toward him. "You okay, Harm?" Josh asked.
"Should you be on that leg, Harm?" Mac wondered.
"No, he shouldn't," the doctor answered.
"I'm fine," Harm insisted, glancing toward the spot where Annie stood with James' arm around her shoulders.
"I wanted him to stay here for the night at least, let us run some more tests," the doctor continued. "But Mr. Rabb's a very - determined man."
Mac smiled. "Stubborn, you mean."
"I didn't want to say it, but you're right. He's assured me that he'll have his doctor look at the wound as soon as he returns to Washington."
"I'll make sure that he does," Mac told the doctor, slipping her arm around Harm's waist to support him- and to reassure herself that he was really all right.
Dr. Bennett held out a slip of paper. "I also wrote this prescription for some pain-killers. That wound's going to start hurting later- especially if he doesn't get off of that leg soon."
Mac promised, "I'll take care of that, too," as she took the prescription. She knew how Harm disliked medication.
"You can get it filled at the hospital pharmacy- just down the corridor and to the right."
"Thanks," Mac said, putting the paper into the pocket of her jeans.
"See, Dr. Bennett?" Harm said with a grin. "I told you I'd be in good hands."
"How is the Chief?" Josh asked the doctor.
"Mr. Harrison," Harm supplied when the doctor gave the boy a blank look.
"He's still in surgery," Dr. Bennett told them. "He lost a great deal of blood, but he seems to be in a good shape for a man of his age-" he looked across at Annie. "Are you his daughter?" he asked.
"N-no," Annie said. "I'm Josh's mother," she said, placing her hands on her son's shoulders.
"You should be very proud of the boy," Dr. Bennett told her. "From what Mr. Rabb here tells me, if your son hadn't been able to pilot that plane tonight, none of them would be here now."
Annie blinked, stunned by the doctor's words. It was James who nodded. "Thanks. We are pretty proud of him," he said, causing Josh to look up at him. James gave him a wink and a smile. "Just as long as he doesn't take off again to do it."
Josh returned the smile. He still wasn't sure about James, but if Harm said to give him a chance..."I just did what I had to do," he told the doctor. "I had a good teacher."
Dr. Bennett nodded before telling Mac and Harm, "I'd like to know when Mr. Harrison's daughter arrives."
"You will," Harm said, and held out his hand. "Thank you."
"Don't thank me yet, Mr. Rabb. I won't feel good about that wound until you've had a specialist look at it." Another nod in Mac's direction, and the doctor disappeared through the doors again.
Mac frowned at Harm. "What exactly does he think is wrong with your leg?" she asked.
"Nothing serious," he said, giving her a smile that did nothing to belay her worry. "Annie, the doctor's right. Josh did good tonight. If he hadn't been in that plane- well, I'm not sure that I could have brought it down in one piece." He paused before continuing. "And I think you should know, I promised Josh that I wasn't going to let you cut me out of his life the way you did last time."
Annie's head came up, her eyes flashing. "Oh, really? Well, Harmon Rabb, Jr., let me remind you that I am *still* Josh's mother, and I have the *right* to -"
"To push Josh away from you, Annie?" Mac asked, interrupting Annie's tirade. "Because that's what's going to happen if you keep going this way. You're so terrified of losing him that you're suffocating him. You can't force him into your mold, Annie," Mac said, her voice becoming softer as Annie sat there, her mouth hanging open in shock. "You have to let him follow his *own* dreams and live his own life."
"You have no idea what it's like to lose someone," Annie said. "I lost Luke. I can't - I won't risk losing Josh, too."
"Then you'll lose him for sure, Mrs. Pendry," Alicia Harrison Finney said as she entered the waiting room. All eyes turned toward her. "Hi, Josh," she said before turning to Harm and Mac. "Where's my father?"
"He's in surgery right now," Mac said. "I'll go tell Dr. Bennett that she's here," she said to Harm. "Sit down."
Harm ignored the order as Annie said, "I know you. We met-"
"At a PTA meeting not long after my son and I moved to Elk Grove," Alicia confirmed. "You have no idea how much I wanted to talk to you. We'd been through something similar, after all."
"I don't understand," Annie said slowly, frowning. "What are you talking about?"
"My husband was a RIO. He flew off the Sea Hawk. He was killed when his plane went down a couple of years ago. The other wives, they tried to help, but- they hadn't lost the only man they thought they could ever love. The father of her child," Alicia continued, sitting down near Annie and James. "When my Hank brought Josh home, I hoped at first that you and I might become friends. Then Josh told me that you refused to let him even mention anything about the Navy or flying - " Alicia's shoulders lifted slightly.
"I didn't want to risk losing Josh the way I lost Luke," Annie insisted.
"I know. Believe me, I understand. And I might have felt the same way- if my father and father-in-law weren't both ex-Navy. They sat me down and made me understand that losing someone doesn't give you the right to control someone else's life. You have to let Josh grow his own way. If he wants to fly, even if he wants to join the Navy when he's older, you can't really control that. It's in his blood. Dad says that he's a natural pilot. One of the best he's ever seen. You can't stifle that without destroying him, destroying whatever relationship that the two of you might have."
Annie's eyes were focused on the linoleum floor, only lifting as James slipped a hand over hers. "She's right, Annie. Josh has to be able to pursue his dreams." Annie looked at him. "I never told you this, but my mother's only brother was a race car driver. We spent every Saturday evening at the track, watching him drive that car. I told everyone that I knew that I was going to follow in his footsteps. Drive racecars like Uncle Jack. When I was ten, he crashed. He was killed instantly. It didn't change the way *I* felt. I understood that danger was inherent in what he did, and I still wanted to jump into a car as soon as I was old enough and drive. But from that day on, my mother refused to even watch a race on television, refused to allow me to go to the track- she didn't want any reminders of Uncle Jack's death- and she didn't want *me* to end up the way that he had. So she insisted that I follow my father's path- into banking."
Annie was shaking her head, and Josh's eyes were wide as he listened to James recount his own youth. "I never realized," she told him. "I thought you liked working at the bank."
He gave her a tight smile. "I do. I've never done anything else. There are still times when I wonder how things would have been different if I had defied my mother and followed my dream. To this day, Annie, my mother and I don't get along. Oh, we send each other cards on birthdays and Christmas and such, but we don't talk. I don't want that for you- or for Josh."
Josh stood nearby, watching as his mother processed all of the information she'd received, waiting for her to react. Before she had a chance to say anything, Mac returned with Dr. Bennett. He went directly to Alicia Finney, who rose from her chair to greet him.
"Mrs. Finney, I'm Dr. Bennett. I saw your father when he was first brought into emergency."
"How is he?" Alicia asked. "They said he was in surgery?"
"He received a gunshot to the abdomen. He lost a lot of blood- but he seems in good general health-"
"Dad's never had a sick day in his life," Alicia informed him.
"That just makes it all the more likely that he'll make a full recovery and be back to flying before you know it," Dr. Bennett assured her. "I'll come and let you know the minute they've finished."
"Thank you," Alicia said. Once the doctor was gone, she smiled at Annie. "You know, it's strange. I fully expected Hank to want to fly, like his father and his father's father. But he doesn't."
"He doesn't?" Annie questioned.
"Oh, he wants to join the Navy," Alicia confirmed. "But he wants to serve on a submarine."
"Yeah," Josh said. "A bubblehead." He grinned up at Harm, who gave him a "thumbs up". Looked like things were going to work out after all
19 August 2003
Elk Grove Inn, Room 261
Elk Grove, California
It was early in the morning by the time Annie, James, and Josh dropped Harm and Mac at their hotel. Master Chief Nick Harrison survived surgery, and was already letting every nurse within earshot know that he hated being in the hospital. He warned Harm and Josh that if they had done any permanent damage to his airplane, they were going to have to pay for it. But he'd been smiling as he made the threat, and had already told Josh how proud he was of his "star pupil."
Mac didn't miss the sweat on Harm's forehead as he dropped onto the bed. He started to say, "Annie sure made a turnaround, didn't she?"
"Not sure if it was James' influence or Nick's charm that did it," Mac agreed. She hid her exasperation as she went to find a water glass and took out the pain pills she'd slipped away to fill for Harm. His Superman complex was going to drive her insane. The man had a bullet hole in his leg and he still thought he should fix everything for Josh and Annie.
"Well," Harm said, wincing as he pulled his injured leg up onto the bed, "I don't really care which it was. As long as she doesn't stop Josh from flying."
"Here," Mac said. She sat down carefully on the edge of the bed, trying not to jostle Harm's leg.
"What's this?" he asked.
"Pain pills," she said simply.
"Mac," he said with a laugh, "I'm fine. Really. It's just a scratch-"
Mac placed the water and pills on the nightstand, and then lightly placed a hand on his leg - directly over the white bandage that covered it. Harm's eyebrow lifted, as if to say that he'd told her so, but when Mac applied the tiniest bit of pressure to that leg, she saw him wince again.
"A scratch, huh?" she asked, putting the pills into his hand. "Take the pills, Flyboy."
"Is that an order?" he asked.
"I can make it one, Commander."
Harm took the pills, put them into his mouth, and followed them with almost the entire glass of water. "Happy?" he asked.
"Delirious," Mac responded, and started to get up, but Harm's hand on her arm stopped her.
"Are you okay, Mac?"
"Why shouldn't I be?" she asked. "I mean, I should be used to it by now, shouldn't I? Get into a small plane with you, - well, let's just say it's never boring."
"You didn't mean what you said earlier - about not getting on a plane with me again?"
"I don't think the Admiral would be very understanding if you told him that he was going to have to arrange alternate transportation for you from here on out," Harm pointed out. "And I can't see you telling him that a big strong Marine is afraid of flying."
"I'm *not* afraid of flying," Mac insisted. "It's flying with *you* that frightens me." Her smile took the sting from her words. "I didn't mean it. About not getting on a plane with you. Besides, I don't think you'll be very dangerous going home- you can barely walk, much less cause any problems on a commercial jet."
"So, you think I'm safe, hmm?" Harm asked, pulling her closer.
"Oh, believe me, I'd never think that, Harm," Mac assured him as her lips met his. "You should have been honest with me about the plane, though," she said once the kiss had ended.
Resting his forehead against her, he sighed. "I know. And I'm sorry. But I was desperate to get you to agree. It was the only way out, and I wasn't about to leave you behind." He sighed again. "Mac, would you mind if we spent Christmas with my mom and Frank this year?"
Mac's narrowed slightly at the sudden change of subject. "Wherever you want, Flyboy," she said, ignoring the fact that he'd just asked to spend Christmas with *her* as well. It was probably the pain meds taking effect, she reasoned.
"Good. I think I owe my mom a little quality time." Mac pulled him forward and pulled off his shirt. "What are you doing, Marine?" he asked, smiling again. "You wouldn't be trying to undress me, now, would you?"
"That's the general idea," Mac replied, her fingers trailing lightly along the dark hair that disappeared into the waistband of his jeans before she unfastened them and slipped the zipper downward. "You can't sleep in your clothes."
"Who said anything about sleep?" he asked, pulling her to him again, and this time, the kiss didn't end as quickly.
"Harm, your leg -"
"I don't even feel it at the moment. Whatever those pills were, they're good." His hand cupped her cheek. "I need you, Mac. Now."
Mac smiled and dropped another kiss onto his lips before rising to remove her own clothes, while Harm slowly removed what was left of his jeans . . .
Later, lying with her head on his shoulder, Mac ran her hand through the dark hair on his chest. content. "Harm?"
"Hmm?" Her lips curved upward as she heard the response beneath her cheek.
"I could have lost you tonight. And I realized that I wasn't ready for that to happen without telling you how I feel. I know we've never really said the words - but I need to say them right now. I love you."
There was no response to her words except the regular fall of his chest, and Mac frowned as she lifted her head to look up at him.
His eyes were closed, his breathing deep and even. He was asleep.
Mac lay down again, smiling through her sigh. She'd tell him first thing tomorrow. No more putting it off. Even if he wasn't ready to say the words, she was.